Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The problem with writing a musical blog is that when you can't afford to buy new records, you really can't write that much.

But here's two new arrivals, and don't complain, there's no accounting for musical tastes - mine are just all over the place.
I've been listening to the latest Goo Goo Dolls album, "Let Love In". The Goo Goo Dolls are a bit of an obscurity here in Europe - they seem to belong to the same category of competent but faceless bands as Dave Matthews Band and Hootie and the Blowfish, or even Counting Crows, that make it huge in America and are met with disappointed bafflement in Europe. The difference being that I always sort of liked The Dolls. Sure, they are a poor man's The Replacements, or were, anyway. But they have somehow, imperceptibly, slid up (or down, depending on your perspective) the scale from ramshackle power pop to polished stadium rock. And let's face it, what's stadium rock but power pop played to a larger audience. Isn't Boston just Big Star with the amps cranked up to reach the folks in the back of the stadium. And doesn't Cheap Trick prove that the sliding scale from power pop to stadium rock is pretty short? So anyway, on their last couple of records, The Dolls have gotten production values and chops and more focused songwriting abilities. I thought "Gutterflowers" was pretty darn good. And I think "Let Love In" is the same. It's a bit more optimistic at times, lyrically, and the production really shines with little pro-tooled details and some tasteful washes of Hammond and Mellotron, but as always it's Rzeznik's quite brilliant, somewhat emo-ish songwriting that saves the day, along with his vocal delivery that is part Westerberg, and part Springsteen/Mellencamp/Seger. In fact, The Dolls are like a noughties update on that whole blue-collar, Chevy-to-the-levee suburban-ersatz-Dylan thing.
Anyways, I like it, and Glen Ballard's production is huge, almost Floydesque, especially on "Become", with it's "The Wall"-references.

That was the good news. The great disappointment of the week was the new Survivor album, "Reach". Now, I always thought that Survivor are a misunderstood and underrated band. They are NOT just "Eye of the Tiger", brilliant though that song might be. To me, Survivor are all about passionate, storytelling AOR. Less muso-ish than Journey, way less prog than Styx, but at their best maybe better songwriters than both those bands. To me, "Too Hot to Sleep" represents the last, glorious gasp of AOR, the swan song of the genre. It's polished, passionate, sensual, and it has more fire/desire rhymes than any record in the history of rock! After that I've followed them on and off. Jimi Jamison has been in and out (didn't he even release an album under the monicker "Jimi Jamison's Survivor" at one point") and Jim Peterik has spent a lot of time writing tunes for other people as well as doing some decent solo work. But now Jimi's back for real, and my expectations were way up - I was hoping that this was one band that might age gracefully. No such luck. I turned it on (without having looked at the credits), bracing my ears for that classic Peterik sound, earcandy washes of ethereal synth chords mixed in with the stylish AOR guitar riffs. But then the sound comes on and it just... guitars. And a tinny digital piano way in the back of the mix. Mediocre guitar riffs, harsh guitar sounds, uninspired drums and NO fucking keyboards! What's up. I grab the CD desperately. Peterik isn't there. What a bummer. Had I known, I would've never bought it. He was the brain and the sound of Survivor, his keyboards were the aural signature, and his songwriting was head and shoulders above almost any other AOR in the late 80's. So who cares about a Survivor record without him on it? Not me. For the record, the album consists of short, unexciting tracks of guitar-driven pop-rock. And Jimi Jamison does not sound like Jimi Jamison anymore.
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